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FEMA Section 106 Notices for Louisiana
Comment on "Public Notice Regarding Section 106 Review of Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) and the Louisiana Dept. of Education, through its Recovery School District (RSD) implementation of the School facilities Master Plan in Orleans Parish–Seeking Public Comment"
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Name: John P. Klingman
City: New Orleans, LA
Phillis Wheatley, Thomy Lafon, Carver, and Avery Alexander Schools
Comments: Following is a copy of my 9/30/08 letter to the RSD:

These comments refer to the status of well designed buildings for which the school system apparently has no use. It is difficult for me to understand the criteria by which you are deciding which school buildings to retain for educational use, and I do not have the knowledge to critique your process. However, as an architect, an educator and the only ongoing critic of contemporary New Orleans architecture through over a decade of annual articles in New Orleans Magazine, I feel qualified to offer the following.

In the period following the Second World War, New Orleans underwent a renaissance in school design. This accompanied the forward thinking civic agenda that was also manifest in the fine public buildings of the period. But the school buildings were particularly significant. They were designed by the city's most talented architects in support of a contemporary architectural and educational agenda. These building won local acclaim, and they were featured in national publications as an indication of a new spirit in New Orleans.

There are at least a dozen outstanding buildings among the fifty-six you are considering for demolition. These buildings are simple, elegant and designed to be efficient. Most were designed to work with natural ventilation, taking advantage of the mild weather and breezes that occur throughout most of the school year. They interwove outdoor play space with the classrooms and featured covered outdoor circulation systems. Of course, over time without adequate maintenance, and with high programmatic demands, the buildings were compromised, sometimes severely. They have been closed up for air-conditioning; they leak, and they have had unsympathetic additions etc. But so have many of our most significant nineteenth century buildings.

We need to recognize that the well designed buildings of the twentieth century are just as much an important part of our heritage as the nineteenth century buildings.

It is imperative that the best of the midcentury school buildings be preserved. If the school system is unable to imagine reusing them, then sell them. Do not demolish them.

At absolute minimum the following buildings need to be preserved for future generations:

Phillis Wheatley Elementary
Thomy Lafon Elementary
Carver Junior-Senior High School
Avery Alexander Elementary


John P. Klingman
Favrot Professor of Architecture
Tulane University